Bès Kěmwar

Variations: Hantu Ulat (Malay), Maggot Spirit, Riverside Maggot Spirit, Tip-of-Leaf Maggot Spirit, Caterpillar Spirit; Bès Kěmwar Jě’la, Hantu Ulat Duri, Thorny Maggot Spirit; Bès Kěmwar Sòk, Hantu Ulat Bulu, Hairy Caterpillar Spirit; Bès Kěmwar Těrbang, Hantu Ulat Terbang, Flying-Maggot Spirit

Bes Kemwar

The Bès Kěmwar, “maggot spirit”, is one of the many bès or disease spirits known to the Jah Hut of Malaysia. A polyvalent spirit, it is depicted as a maggot or caterpillar, with variants distinguished by hair, thorns, wings, and other details. It eats rice, vegetables, and other crops. It is responsible for aches in bones, joints, and muscles. If its caterpillar hair falls into water and that water is drunk, it causes coughing and bleeding in the throat. Maggot spirits are also known to live in rotten tree trunks and feed in them. Anyone who approaches the fallen tree will be bitten in the leg by the spirit, causing redness, swelling, and itching. All the toenails fall off but the swelling will be gone by two or three months.

The riverside maggot spirit lives by the river and appears only during the jungle-fruit season in February. It flies onto the heads of old people and causes all their hair to fall off.

The tip-of-leaf maggot spirit feeds on the leaves of coconut and rice. To prevent this attack on crops, a pawang must bless the plants with a pounded mixture of daun setawa and kunyit mulai, which is burned to ashes and scattered over the plantation.

Bès Kěmwar Jě’la, the thorny-maggot spirit, lives on leaves. It causes restlessness and rheumatism.

Bès Kěmwar Sòk, the hairy caterpillar spirit, lives on the tips of tree branches. Its hair drops into drinking water and causes irritation and swelling in the throat. This affliction can be cured by a poyang while in its early stages, but untreated victims will eventually die as they cannot eat or drink.

Bès Kěmwar Těrbang, the flying-maggot spirit, lives in bushes and eats the leaves of the daun mengkirai tree. Its urine and stool falls on anyone who passes under the tree, causing the victim to become bald and swollen. In the evening it flies onto the roofs of houses and opens them up. Children seeing its eyes reflecting like mirrors will be terrified into crying. Burning daun-kesim keeps this nocturnal nuisance away.

References

Werner, R. (1975) Jah-hět of Malaysia, Art and Culture. Penerbit Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur.

Bès

Variations: Hantu (Malay)

The Bès are the evil spirits of the Jah Hut, an Orang Asli people from peninsular Malaysia. They are true spirits, existing independently and not emerging from humans alive or dead. The vast majority of bès, or hantu as they are known in Malay, are malevolent beings associated with disease. Far less numerous than the bès are the jin (underground spirits), nabi (guardian spirits), and kemoch (spirits of the dead).

All the bès were created along with ‘iblis, the evil one, by Proman, God’s assistant, who botched the creation of the first man. Their great stronghold is a Pauh Janggi Bringin Sungsang, a “Giant Mango Tree Entwined by a Strangler Fig”, that stands beyond the ocean. From there they sally forth to cause all kinds of trouble. God allows it because the bès keep the world in balance, taking life that others may in turn live.

Sickness is caused by the influence of the bès. This usually happens by night – while we sleep, our soul leaves our body and wanders in the jungle. A bès who finds that soul will prevent it from returning, and the owner of the soul will fall ill.

Healing is the duty of the puyang or medicine man. It is their job to locate the missing soul and return it with the help of the good spirits, otherwise their charge will die. The běni’sòy ceremony is used in those cases. It involves drawing the evil spirits out of the body and transferring them into a palm leaf bundle brushed over the skin. Once the bès is trapped, the bundle can be safely disposed of.

Spiritual wood carvings of the bès in question are made to help draw the evil spirit out. These carvings establish an iconography for the bès and allow us to see them as the Jah Hut do.

References

Teoh, B. S. (1986) Bes Hyang Dney: A Jah Hut Myth of Peninsular Malaysia. Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 59(2), pp. 139-144.

Werner, R. (1975) Jah-hět of Malaysia, Art and Culture. Penerbit Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur.

Bès Bulong

Variations: Hantu Bulong (Malay), Bulong, Spirit Bulong

Bes Bulong

Bès Bulong, the spirit Bulong or simply Bulong, is a bès or spirit from the folklore of the Jah Hut people of Malaysia. It walks around by night. If it sees anyone walking about between midnight and 6:00 AM, it will pull out that person’s soul and leave them unconscious.

References

Werner, R. (1975) Jah-hět of Malaysia, Art and Culture. Penerbit Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur.

Bès Dangon

Variations: Hantu Punggong (Malay), Buttock Spirit

Bes Dangon

The Bès Dangon, “buttock spirit”, is a bès or spirit from the folklore of the Jah Hut people of Malaysia. It lives on the top of coconut trees, and the heat of its urine and stool eventually kills the trees. Anyone who tries to climb an inhabited tree is kicked back down.

References

Werner, R. (1975) Jah-hět of Malaysia, Art and Culture. Penerbit Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur.

Bès Jě’la Kòy

Variations: Hantu Kepala Berduri (Malay), Spiky-head Spirit

The Bès Jě’la Kòy, “spiky-head spirit”, is one of many bès or spirits from the folklore of the Jah Hut people of Malaysia. It lives on top of termite hills and knows how long every person will live. If it judges that a person’s lifespan is too short, it will take them into the termite hill to be friends with it forever.

A spiky-head spirit takes one person a year into its termite hill.

References

Werner, R. (1975) Jah-hět of Malaysia, Art and Culture. Penerbit Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur.